The VDMA Robotics + Automation Association of German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) organized the 3rd edition of Robotomation – Symposium for Robotic Automation trends in manufacturing in Coimbatore on November 12, 2021. Despite the prevailing circumstances, more than 150 participants constituting mainly of the Indian automotive, machine tool, foundry, agricultural, heavy industries and textile industry attended the prestigious event.

The new World Robotics 2021 report by International Federation of Robotics (IFR) states that despite the global pandemic situation, robot installations grew slightly to almost 384,000 units. This represents a growth rate of 0.5% and makes the year 2020 the third most successful year for the robotics industry so far, following 2018 and 2017. Broken down by regions and countries, the situation nevertheless is more nuanced. While most countries were severely hit by the pandemic and lockdown measures, the positive market developments in China basically compensated the contractions of other markets. Installations for the region’s largest adopter China grew strongly by 20% with 168,400 units shipped – the highest value ever recorded for a single country.

Asia accounted for 71% of all newly deployed robots in 2020, even though Japan and Korea struggled. Robot installations in the second largest region, Europe, decreased by 8% to almost 68,000 units, down for the second year in a row. In the Americas, installations dropped by 17% to roughly 39,000 units in 2020 – back to its 2015 level. The United States, the largest American market, did better (31,000 units; -8%) than the other major markets Mexico and Canada.

India is one of the strongest growing economies among the Asian emerging markets but struggled severely from the Covid-19 pandemic. Both in terms of new installations and the operational stock of robots, India ranks 12th globally. The current position and the long-term potential of robotics in India becomes more clearly visible if it is put into relation to China, which has a similar size in terms of population.

In 2020, robot installations declined by 25% to 3,215 units. This was the second year of decline following the peak level of 4,771 units in 2018. Installations by the automotive industry are decreasing, while demand from the general industry, mainly the rubber and plastics industry, the metal industry, and the electrical / electronics industry, is increasing. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2015 and 2020 was at +9%.

Therefore, it has become imperative for organisations to find ways to bridge the digitalisation gap to stay ahead of the curve. The gradual integration of robotics and automation in the workplace has begun, transforming the nature of roles and functions in its wake. Hence, with automation driving significant changes in the workplaces, employers realize the need to create a system capable of supporting humans and robots’ interaction.

The Symposium focused on the global robotics and automation trends available for the manufacturing industry. The Symposium was moderated by Ms. Jamly John, General Manager, VDMA India, also responsible for VDMA Robotics + Automation in India.

Mr. Rajesh Nath, Managing Director, VDMA India, during his welcome address, said: “Over the decade to 2030, India needs to create at least 90 million new nonfarm jobs to absorb the 60 million new workers who will enter the workforce based on current demographics, and an additional 30 million workers who could move from farm work to more productive nonfarm sectors. India needs to leapfrog ahead to achieve the employment and productivity growth needed. Fortunately, it has many opportunities to do so. Global trends such as digitization and automation, shifting supply chains, urbanization, and demographic shifts, and a greater focus on sustainability, health, and safety are accelerating or assuming a new significance in the wake of the pandemic.

Technology is an enabler that will help reduce or eliminate manufacturing problems and achieve operational goals, provided the deployed technology is used by the employees effectively. While the deployment can be accelerated, training employees, enabling them to use it effectively for problem solving requires time. It is important to set the right expectations while starting the transformation journey. Hence friends building a “Smart Factory” is a journey that requires detailed planning, identification & prioritization of areas of intervention, careful choice of technology platforms, a strong business case, and employee onboarding & participation. Most successful programs have been aligned to the vision of the organization, that delivers consistent business benefits and are able to fund itself over a period of time to ensure long term sustenance.”

The Managing Director of VDMA Robotics + Automation & Member of the Executive Board of the International Federation of Robotics, Mr. Patrick Schwarzkopf, gave a keynote address on “Robotics and Automation: The global success story continues”. He said: “Robot installations in India dropped by 25% y-o-y, the second decline after the peak level of 4,771 units recorded in 2018. In the Global ranking in installations the nos. stood at 12 (2019: #10), in operational stock #12. The Robot density remains very low with only 6 industrial robots in operation per 10,000 employees in manufacturing (world average: 126). He mentioned about the need for further robotization to upgrade manufacturing. The share of automotive sector in installations used to be 66% in 2015, but has been declining since then, reaching just 23% in 2020. For 2021, double-digit growth rates of robot installations can be expected. When catch-up effects are over, growth will be likely to continue at a lower rate of roughly 10% annually.”

During the inaugural session, the Chief Guest, Ms. Karin Stoll, Consul General of Federal Republic of Germany, Chennai, gave an overview on the “Strengthening Indo German Trade”. The inauguration was chaired by the Guest of Honour, Mr. M. V. Ramesh Babu, President, The Coimbatore District Small Industries Association (CODISSIA), gave insights on the “Strengthening Indo German Trade in Coimbatore”.

During this event, well-known VDMA members, namely, Beckhoff Automation, FESTO India, ifm Electronic, Pepperl+Fuchs Factory Automation, Schmersal India, Schunk Intec and Zimmer Automation conducted application-oriented technology presentations. The partner Roedl & Partner Consulting, gave an overview on from the regulatory perspective.

The first round of technology-oriented presentation was led by Mr. Hrishikesh Kulkarni, Chief Operating Officer, Zimmer Automation, gave insights on “Robotic – End-of-Arm-Ecosystem for every Industry”. Mr. Ashwin Vanikar, Cluster Head – Application Engineering, FESTO India, gave an overview on “Enhancing Automation in collaboration with Robots”. Mr. Ashwin Udayashankar, National Sales Manager – Gripping Systems, SCHUNK Intec, spoke on “Synergy and Innovative Robot Applications”. Mr. Aman Monga, GM – Business Development, Pepperl+Fuchs Factory Automation, gave insights on “Sensors for Smart Manufacturing”, and Mr. Atish Laddha, Associate Partner, Team Lead, Roedl & Partner Consulting, updated on “Latest Trends in Manufacturing Sector”.

The second round of technology-oriented presentation was led by Mr. Bipin Jirge, Managing Director & Mr. Rajesh Hari, Sales Manager, ifm Electronic, gave insights on “IO-Link – Road to Industry 4.0 & Vision Sensors”. Mr. Milind Kaluskar – OEM Sales Manager & Mr. Ashutosh Tarlekar – Application Manager and Product Specialist, Beckhoff Automation, spoke about “PC Based Control in Robotic Automation”. Mr. Sagar Bhosale, Managing Director from Schmersal India, gave an overview on “Safety Technology & services for safe Operation of Industrial Robots – Inline with Updated National & International regulations”.

The Symposium would not be possible without the support of its Partners and truly acknowledge and appreciate their support.

The Partners: Beckhoff Automation, FESTO India, ifm Electronic, Pepperl+Fuchs Factory Automation, Roedl & Partner Consulting, Schmersal India, Schunk Intec and Zimmer Automation. The Partners were having B2B exhibition space at the Symposium to present their technologies to the delegates.

The Symposium concluded with a Networking High Tea which provided a good interaction and networking opportunity for both the delegates, speakers and exhibitors at the event. The German companies operating in India are quite upbeat about the business opportunities in India and have been quite successful. With the governments focus on Digitalization and Automation, they are only looking positively towards the new initiatives in the path of progress for the industry.